Shogatsu—as the New Year’s holidays are known in Japan—is a very special time of year in the country. The notoriously hard-working nation comes as close as it ever does to shutting down for a while as people head back to their home towns; catch up with family and friends; and eat, drink, and relax around tables and kotatsus from Hokkaido to Okinawa. It’s also time for a lot of TV to be watched, and with so many guaranteed eyes on the screen, the TV networks often pull off some interesting surprises. Two in this case come from the wide world of sports…

First up is football superstar Lionel Messi, who shows off the skills that have made him one of the best players on the planet. As a post on Business Insider shows, Messi takes his skills to new heights (pun intended, you’ll see) by showing just how much ball control he has. On a variety show that aired (sorry) over the holidays, the Argentinian striker raised the bar—to a height of 18 meters (just shy of 60 feet)—and then kicked a ball over it. Without letting it touch the ground.


You can see the entire clip below (jump ahead to 1:35 for the kick)


The next bit of action comes courtesy of home-grown tennis phenom Kei Nishikori, who, alongside his mentor Shuzo Matsuoka, put on a monster of a performance in what we’d like to call a doubles match. The only problem with calling it a doubles match is that the other side had as many as five players on the other side, cycling among the Japanese comedy duo “Tunnels” (made up of Takaaki Ishibashi and Noritake Kinashi), Nishikori’s current coach, former pro Michael Chang, the legendary Andre Agassi, and three (!) junior tennis players. At one point, Kinashi was using a racket in each hand, and at another, the net itself was moved to force Nishikori and Matsuoka to cover 50% more court. It might be the closest you’ll come to watching a game of Mario Tennis come to life (see video at the bottom of the post).

But during the match, perhaps one highlight stood out: Nishikori using the handle of the racket to win a point—on Michael Chang. It might be a nod to his performance in a commercial that has been making the rounds on TV recently, which features Samurai Nishikori dispatching his opponent, while using a wooden sword in place of a tennis racket. You can see both the point and the commercial below:


Even if you don’t have a pile of snacks and mikan handy, you might want to skim through the entire match. Seeing Agassi take to the court and occasionally testing both Matsuoka and Nishikori is worth the viewing alone:

—Alec Jordan

Main Image: Screen shot